With the whole country seemingly in a tax-cutting mood, a new public opinion poll shows Davis County residents would pay higher taxes for more teachers so they could have smaller classes.
Furthermore, those polled strongly favored charging developers "impact fees" on each new house to help pay for schools.However, those polled weren't terribly willing to pay more for expanded school busing.
Sixty-one percent of the people polled said they'd pay higher taxes for lower pupil-teacher ratios. Thirty-seven percent said no.
Lily Eskelsen, head of the Utah Education Association, said she isn't surprised.
"It vindicates all those things we've said all along," she said. "We've talked to a lot of parents and teachers, and taken surveys on our own. When we ask, `What would you like to see improved in your school?' the answers are: class size, technology, textbooks, supplies. That's not a real gimmicky list. That's not vouchers or private school tax credits."
Eskelsen contends many politicians have misread the mood of the people and she said the Dan Jones poll supports that idea.
"Everyone thinks the public is out there saying, `I want lower taxes.' Yet in a fairly conservative, highly Republican district like Davis, people are concerned about schools. We have this tax bandwagon, with politicans saying `I'll cut more taxes than the next guy and it will have a big political payoff.' Politicians will find out people are smarter than that. They haven't given those people the credit they deserve," Eskelsen said.
Utahns want their children to have good educations - and they're willing to pay for it, Eskelsen said.
The Deseret News recently hired Dan Jones & Associates to poll Davis County residents on several issues. Four hundred people were polled by phone and the results have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.
Davis residents who were polled had mixed feelings about spending more for expanded busing. Fifty-two percent of those polled said they would not spend more tax money for more busing, while 45 percent would.
The Davis County School District this year eliminated about 3,800 students from bus routes because they lived too close to school to be eligible for state transportation reimbursement. The decision created quite a furor among many parents whose children were affected by it.
As for development impact fees to pay for schools, 67 percent of those polled favored the idea, while 27 percent said no.
Eskelsen said educators themselves are divided on the issue.
"The UEA has taken a position of support for communities to impose impact fees on their community," she said. However, many people see this as an equity issue. "Some districts have the community makeup and economic base that people say a $2,000 or $3,000 fee would be appropriate. Others would say that for our community, it would put homes out of the price range of many people."
Davis County Poll
Would you be willing to pay higher taxes for more teachers, which would mean smaller classrooms in the public schools?
DEFINITELY WILLING 30%
PROBABLY WILLING 31%
PROBABLY NOT WILLING 17%
DEFINITELY NOT WILLING 20%
DON'T KNOW 3%
Would you be willing to pay higher taxes for expanded school busing?
DEFINITELY WILLING 16%
PROBABLY WILLING 29%
PROBABLY NOT WILLING 20%
DEFINITELY NOT WILLING 32%
DON'T KNOW 3%
In your opinion, should the school board charge developers an "impact fee" on each new house built in Davis County to help pay for schools?
PROBABLY NOT 11%
DEFINITELY NOT 16%
DON'T KNOW 6%
Poll conducted Dec. 5-10, 1994. Margin of error +/-5% on interviews of 400 registered voters. Conducted by Dan Jones & Associates. Copyright 1994 Deseret News. Dan Jones & Associates, an independent organization founded in 1980, polls for the Deseret News and KSL. Its clients include other organizations and some political candidates.